A rodent model for human Lassa fever was developed which uses inbred (strain 13) and outbred (Hartley) guinea pigs. Strain 13 guinea pigs were uniformly susceptible to lethal infection by 2 or more PFU of Lassa virus strain Josiah. In contrast, no more than 30% of the Hartley guinea pigs died regardless of the virus dose. In lethally infected strain 13 guinea pigs, peak titers of virus (10 (expn 7) to 10 (expn 8) PFU) occurred in the spleen and lymph nodes at 8 to 9 days, in the salivary glands at 11 days, and in the lung at 14 to 16 days. Virus reached low titers (10 (expn 4) PFU) in the plasma and brain and intermediate titers in the liver, adrenal glands, kidney, pancreas, and heart. In moribund animals, the most consistent and severe histological lesion was an interstitial pneumonia. In contrast, the brain was only minimally involved. The immune response of lethally infected strain 13 guinea pigs, as measured by the indirect fluorescent antibody test, was detectable within 10 days of infection and was similar in timing and intensity to the fluorescent antibody test response of both lethally infected and surviving outbred animals. In contrast to the fluorescent antibody response, neutralizing antibody developed late in convalescence and was thus detected only in surviving outbred guinea pigs. The availability of a rodent model for human Lassa fever in uniformly susceptible strain 13 guinea pigs should facilitate detailed pathophysiological studies and efficacy testing of antiviral drugs, candidate vaccines, and immunotherapy regimens to develop control methods for this life-threatening disease in humans.